Baker Act bill has new life in Fla.

Published On: Apr 10 2013 02:22:04 PM EDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

An attempt to keep medical patients from hurting themselves and others has new life.

Until Wednesday, legislation to give nurse practitioners the right to conduct involuntary mental health exams looked dead. But a group of dedicated nurses brought the bill back to life.

A bill to give them more authority to stop potential suicides and homicides passed the House but seemed dead in the Senate.

"In the Senate, we need your advocacy," Rep. Hazel Rogers said.

This issue concerns the Baker Act. The law allows doctors, mental health experts and police to commit people deemed to be dangerous for 72 hours.

Stan Whittaker is nurse practitioner and works at a country clinic where doctors aren't always available. One day, Stan tried to help a man bent on suicide. He called the police.

"When the law enforcement arrived, the person was asked the questions, the same questions I asked, but he told a different story," Whittaker said.

The police couldn't commit the man.

"And less than two hours later that person was found dead," Whittaker said.

As nurses shared their stories, news from the Senate arrived.

"We just heard that Sen. Eleanor Sobel has put this bill on the agenda for one o'clock," said Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee.

The crowd cheered. Their plan worked. The Senate will hear the bill Monday.

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